Opinion: Plans will win Michigan, not rhetoric

Jim Ananich

Most people have made up their minds on President Donald Trump. They either like him or loathe him.

So, when all eyes are on Michigan as 20 candidates running for this nation's highest office take the stage at Detroit's Fox Theatre, the debate’s primary purpose should be to convince us of their real plans to take our country down a better path, not to dwell on the faults of the current president.

The debates must be less about the "who" and more about the "what"; they must be less about the name on the Oval Office and more about concrete policy ideas to make our country a more united, stable and prosperous place for everyone.

Democratic presidential candidates, author Marianne Williamson, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., former Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., raise their hands when asked if they would provide healthcare for undocumented immigrants, during the Democratic primary debate hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Thursday, June 27, 2019, in Miami.

When I talk with my neighbors, the people I represent as their state senator, they are more focused on their day-to-day realities than the unpredictable circus that is Washington, D.C. They tell me their concerns about how they're going to get dinner on the table, afford day care for their kids, budget for next month's prescriptions, and retire with dignity.

As the Senate minority leader for our state, it's my responsibility to work with the federal administration, whether it's led by a Republican or a Democrat, but I need to know that we have a partner in the White House who is willing to fight just as hard as we are for the well-being of Michigan families.

The next president will prove that they are a fighter for Michigan by putting forth real, honest plans that address our real, honest needs. They won’t write tweets meant to divide us, but instead will put forth ideas that support our common success.

The first matter at hand is infrastructure. It was the cornerstone of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's winning campaign, and she needs a president who will work with Michigan leaders to get the job done, not walk away from the bargaining table when things get tough like the current president did just a few months ago. The candidate who wins Michigan will have a plan for rehabbing the nation's aging infrastructure, including pipes and sewer systems, and she or he will have a sense of urgency to make it happen.

Michigan residents need to be assured that their next president is committed to bringing wel-paying, quality jobs to communities. That means doubling down on access to skilled trades programs and retraining efforts, supporting workplace fairness initiatives like raising the minimum wage and equal pay for equal work, and making sure parents have access to affordable child care. It is not enough that the economy is better than 2008; too many of my constituents haven't seen a raise or been able to save up to replace an old car or take a trip up north with their families in years. Michigan built the middle class and we know that when it's thriving, everyone — not just the CEOs — benefits.

The candidate who wins Michigan should believe that all residents of our country deserve access to clean tap water. As a resident of Flint, I am painfully aware of the burden of contamination, and so are the thousands of families across the nation who worry about lead, PFAS and other dangerous additives. Flint residents will be listening carefully to hear candidates' plans to equip communities with access to safe water, increase testing and safety standards, and, maybe most importantly, restore trust that elected officials will act in the best interest of all their constituents, regardless of race or tax bracket.

Visiting Flint isn't a photo op or a box to check, it's a city full of families that need their president to be a partner in its recovery.

Given these very real concerns, it should be clear to any candidate that they won't win over Michiganians with warm and fuzzy rhetoric. We're tough folks who see right through overly tested and polled messages that are designed to "say something without saying anything."

My closing message to the candidates for president: Only so much can be said in the 60-second segments you'll get to speak on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. That is preciously small time to talk about the deeply complex issues facing our state and our country. Skip the small talk and make it count.

Sen. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, is the Michigan Senate minority leader.